Things I learned at Snow*Mobile 2014

Last weekend, I went to a mobile design conference in Madison called Snow*Mobile (clever, right?) It was a total blast, and I learned a lot. I figured it would be to my benefit (and hopefully, maybe, the benefit of others) to sum up some of the most important things I learned in a blog post! So, without further ado, here’s some lessons about design, development, and life in general:

Constraints can actually kind of rock.

The second talk of the conference, given by Shay Howe, was probably one of the most interesting to me. He addressed the idea that constraints (specifically in design, but I think this could also apply to development) help us make decisions, improve experiences, increase productivity, and help us to grow and learn. A blank Photoshop document can sit as an intimidating, monolithic structure that you just have no idea how to tackle without some rules. Constraints help us use fewer resources by providing clear challenges to overcome, rather than a mess of hurdles thrown randomly about the track. Having regulations removes distractions, helps with focus and can also help us stretch out of our comfort zone by breaking our habits. Overall, having some restrictions on your design can actually benefit you. I think this is something I’ve noticed during my time in design school so far, but I have never seen it addressed, nor have I heard professors talk about it. In fact, many of my professors have said to enjoy the time we have on projects with little to no restraints, because in the industry, we’ll be overcome with rules. Honestly, though, I never liked those projects as much as those that had a little more direction.

Learning a new coding language is rough, but YOU CAN DO IT! (insert inspiring music here)

Did that sound sarcastic? I really hope not. I’m totally serious about the inspiring music. Play some next time you finish a tough coding problem; bask in the idea that you’re awesome (because you are). Sorry, I’m getting off topic. Glynnis Ritchie started the conference with tips on ‘drinking from the fire hose’ that is programming (in whatever language). She included things that I have heard before (but were still good to hear again), like to step away from the keyboard once in a while, and to try to focus your learning and not pile on many other things at the same time. One of the most valuable things I think I heard from her, though, was to revisit the things you’re good at when you’re frustrated. If you’re learning JavaScript, for example, and really struggling, maybe head back to a pure HTML/CSS project, if that’s your area of expertise. Do something that restores your confidence and your drive to keep going. She also mentioned to build a support network, which I think is said a lot; however, I almost always hear that we should gather mentors who are experts in the field, and she emphasized also making connections with other learners. I think that was a really great tip, because experts can start to take things for granted that come naturally to them at this point, whereas other learners will know that everything is as new to you as it is to them, and they should take certain parts slowly. You can swap tips equally, and learn from each other. Finally, just like everything in life, communication is key.

Hamburgers are on the rise (and other tips about mobile device usage)

The infamous hamburger menu is becoming more widely recognized now then ever; however, it’s still not quite universal. Pamela Pavliscak addressed this in her incredibly solid talk about how people use mobile design. I was honestly blown away by how prepared and knowledgeable she was, with an incredible amount of facts and a genuine curiosity and excitement about the subject matter that came through when she spoke. Ah, sorry, the inner high school speech team member in me is coming out. The point is, on top of being a great speaker to listen to, Pamela gave some great tips on mobile design. Having obvious cues for users by taking care that your icons are very clear and your interactive spots actually look interactive is important. Users are less likely to tap randomly on the screen than they would be to click around on a computer screen (and they can’t get the little hover state hand, either). Icons can be very confusing if they aren’t widely recognized. People go to great lengths to avoid typing (for example, logging into an app with Facebook rather than typing an email and password). Users won’t always look all the way at the bottom of the screen, so keeping the most important information closer to the top is wise. Finally, AGAIN, make sure that your interactions are clear! People can mistake icons for a ‘part of the design’. One of the few hard facts I actually took down was that 30% more users will tap on a hamburger menu that has a border or box around it. Overall, it’s just important to remember that mobile browsing is far newer technology than desktop browsing, and you want to make sure that your user feels as comfortable as possible.

A lot of other really great things that I can’t fit into one blog post 

I would love to talk about everything that I learned at the conference, but let’s be real: I learned a lot, and I can get a little long-winded, so I should probably try to wrap this up fairly soon (let’s see if I actually can). Matt Luedke gave a great talk about thinking about your app in terms of a game, and establishing patterns. It’s important that a pattern can be learned easily, but also doesn’t get too comfortable or become dull. Clarissa Peterson talked about responsive typography, which would honestly be a lot to type up; shoot me an email if you want some of my noes, or maybe reach out to her directly. There were a lot of other great talks, too (the future of mobile banking, fast prototyping strategies for UI design, how google glass can/should be used and how it relates to sci-fi films, etc.). 

Finally, non-design/dev-related-things

-If you get the chance, GO TO MADISON. I had never been before and it was super rad. 

-Hostels are pretty sweet. 

-Keep track of how much money you’re spending on a weekend away (whoops!)

-Comedy clubs are also pretty sweet.

-Comfortable walking shoes are important.

-Make the most of your time at conferences. If there’s a talk happening that you know will be totally over your head, maybe take that time to rest and digest the other information you’ve learned. 

-If you see a sign for a Daft Punk tribute show happening that night, go (duh).



Welp, there you have it. A weekend of intense learning and little sleep condensed into a rather long post. Now I’m off to put these lessons to use and start my Saturday full of design and development…and dinner with a friend tonight, so as not to get totally overwhelmed by drinking from the fire hose. :)

Posted Mar. 1,2014

My life is pretty great.

I mean, let’s be real: last semester was a little rough…but it’s over now, and since then, everything’s been on an upward slope. I’m currently back at The Nerdery, in the middle of my last week working here on a short-term stint as a UX Design contractor. I’ve been working out more regularly, seeing friends, and even feeling productive enough to do some major ‘spring cleaning’ in the middle of winter. I have three classes left, which should harmonize perfectly. Two nights ago, I booked my spring break trip. Things are great!


All this is to say…I make for an awful blogger. I make my life as exciting (and therefore, as busy) as possible, and when I do have downtime, this tends to fall to the back burner. So, I’m sorry for the lack of activity here in the past few months, but one of my goals for this semester is to post updates way more often! With senior show going on, I’m sure I’ll have a lot on my mind, hopefully most of which I can post here…and hopefully most of which will be worth reading ;)

Excitement and Anticipation

Tonight, I set out to write a blog post about college and life here in Menomonie. I got a couple paragraphs in and realized that it was incredibly jumbled, and I need a little more time to figure out exactly what I was trying to articulate about my final year of school.

So! In the meantime, I just want to make a quick post about the ridiculous amount of awesome things that I have in the near (and some in the not-so-near) future! Including, but not limited to:

Design Camp
Last year, I went to AIGA MN’s Design Camp for the first time. It was a total blast, and it was also where I got a better idea of what I wanted to do for a career, and simultaneously connected with Fred Beecher, who would become my boss/mentor/personal hero at The Nerdery (see my previous blog post). This year, not only do I get to go back, but this time with some of my closest friends in tow and a seat at the collaboration lunch with one of my ultimate design heroes, Jessica Hische. I might be fangirling about it. Just a little!

Four Fists Show

Two of my favorite rappers (Astronautalis and POS) are coming together to make a collaboration called Four Fists, and in a week they’re having a CD release show at the Triple Rock! I am INCREDIBLY psyched for this!

Zombie Crawl

Yep, Menomonie’s having their annual zombie crawl pretty soon here. It’s the weekend preceding homecoming, so it will be interesting to witness the incredibly high intoxication levels two weekends in a row…but mostly, I’m just excited to dress up like a zombie and walk around town talking to other zombies!

Snow*Mobile Conference

This is the furthest thing away from now, with it not happening until February. My professor, Bert Fraher, just sent out an email giving us a heads-up about an Interactive Design Conference in Madison focusing on desigining for mobile (Snow*Mobile), and if you are a student and you volunteer for a few shifts of work, you can attend for free! I’ve already signed up and I can’t wait to go.

I’m pretty much always excited about something, and there’s a lot more I’m looking forward to than what I listed above, but these are the things that are especially on my mind today! Oh, and finally finishing Game of Thrones. I’m almost caught up!

If you’re going to be at Design Camp this weekend, shoot me an email or a message or a Tweet or a carrier pigeon, and we can chat face-to-face in the magical land of Nisswa.

Talk About Bittersweet

This summer has been the best summer of my life.

No, really. 

Let’s start by talking about my job.

Back in October, I went to AIGA’s Design Camp, and saw Fred Beecher give a talk about User Experience Design, and the apprenticeship program he was trying to start. In February, I toured The Nerdery. I felt this weird sense of belonging that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I made a decision then and there: someday, somehow, I would work there. Period. In April, I was offered an apprenticeship position.

Talk about a dream come true!

Honestly, working here really has been one of the most amazing experiences I could imagine. The culture and the people here are so incredibly welcoming, fun, and challenging. We work hard, we play hard, and we use a LOT of sticky notes. There’s so much more to the UX process than I could have really imagined before this…and I love all of it. Yes, even the content inventory.

Next Friday is my last day. I’ll hopefully be back (that’s the plan, at least), but it still feels incredibly weird to be leaving. Oh man, I’m tearing up a little. Gosh, I’m a sap.

I’ve also spent the summer trying to push my boundaries outside of work. I’ve been trying to do more things on my own and become comfortable with my independence. I’ve attended social gatherings where I arrived with a few acquaintances and left with a handful of serious friends. I’ve done a lot of Minneapolis exploring. I’ve just generally tried a lot of new things.

I’ll be back in classes three weeks from today. I’m super excited for my new apartment, for one of my high school friends to join me at school this year, for my classes, and to see my Menomonie friends again…but that only serves to dull the sting of the end of this summer. I’m really going to miss this. I’m sure my final year of school is going to be totally rad (in fact, I’m going to make sure that it is), but in the back of my mind I will likely be counting down the days to my next summer spent in the magical land of Minneapolis.

Talk about bittersweet.  

TL;DR: 

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Life Outside Tumblr

It has recently come to my attention that I haven’t made a post to this blog in just over two months.

Woah.

Time really flies when you’re DOING EVERYTHING EVER.

So, without further ado, here’s a quick overview of what I’ve been up to recently (including visual aids!):



FINALS WEEK

Shortly after my last post, finals week rolled around at school. Honestly, I spent about half that time studying/working on projects, and the rest of that time trying to cram in as much social activity with my friends as physically possible before going our separate ways for the summer. When I finally moved all my stuff out and headed home for break, I spent the first week or two being ridiculously lazy and trying to catch up with friends here. I may or may not have also spent a shameful amount of time watching Gilmore Girls.

 

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One of the last social outings of spring semester, with some of the best friends I could ask for.




48 HOUR FILM PROJECT

If you’ve never heard of 48 hour film project…well, now’s your chance to learn about one of the coolest things you can do with a weekend! Basically, it’s a competition where you start out by drawing a genre out of a hat, and then have 48 hours to write, shoot, edit, and turn in a 4-7 minute film. There’s also a prop, line, and character that each team has to incorporate. This year, my team drew the genre Superhero, and we had to have the line “She told me it’s a secret”, a lamp for a prop, and Bobby or Betty Bulmer (farmer or gardener) as a character. We only had 6 people involved (including actors, directors, writers…we all did a bit of everything), so our team was tiny. It was super fun though! Thanks to Scott and Olivia for being awesome.

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Teleportia, Reflecto, and Rewind.


T.I.G.H.T.S. Training Video from Scott Fischer on Vimeo.

The final product.



SOCIAL LIFE

I’ve always made a ridiculous amount of plans with friends…and so far this summer has been even crazier than usual. I’ve gone to concerts, parties, bonfires, and even a Star Wars burlesque show. I had an indoor picnic, visited a small replica of the TARDIS, adventured around Minnehaha Falls, attended multiple grad parties…the list goes on. It’s been pretty awesome.

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Olivia and I at Minnehaha falls; perfect lighting on the falls; s’mores with the Thursday crew (specifically Gabby here); Astronatualis and SIMS concert.



THE MOST IMPORTANT (AND AWESOME) THING: THE APPRENTICESHIP


On June 3rd, I walked into Rivendell for my first meeting at my shiny, brand-new job (disclaimer: Rivendell is the name of a meeting room. As much as I wish I could actually go to Rivendell…that was sadly not the case. There was a sword and stuff though!) I just finished up my third week as a User Experience Apprentice at The Nerdery, and so far, it has been one of the best experiences I’ve had. I’ve learned a ton about UX, myself, and most importantly, spreadsheets (hah). Honestly, though, I’ve wanted to be at this company since around October, and so far it’s cracking up to be just as awesome as I had hoped, if not more.

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First day; Cyberman (Murray) next to my desk; Roux, one of my favorite office dogs; post-work talk about the search for extraterrestrial life; AWESOME food from Bottlecap (weekly Friday wrap-up meeting thing), and empathy mapping for a fictional dragon-rider-training company.

‘Colleen’ by The Heavy is my new jam.

The Making of InterNetWork

It all began one fateful day in March. There I was: sitting in my Type in Motion classroom, probably talking to Emily and Leah about the latest entertaining thing I’d found on Tumblr…when we were interrupted by the voice of John Vorwald. This is a common occurrence (seeing as he is our professor) but this time, he was introducing Project 2: a television network branding.

I thought long and hard about all of my interests, how I spend my time in a given day, and what topic I could focus my network on that would keep me most interested throughout the project. Of course, I punctuated this thought process checking Reddit, Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, email, and Twitter. And then I realized: the internet is really freaking rad. And it should be a TV star.


I started by creating a list of words that came to mind when I thought of the internet. I made a sort-of casual “mission statement” for the network, and then started thinking of shows that would air on it. Some of the shows I came up with are things that are currently YouTube series (like Know Your Meme and some of the Nerdfighters/Vlogbrothers videos). I actually made a Reddit post asking for other show ideas (why not ask the internet about the internet?), but unfortunately, no one responded.

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After I had a solid idea of what the network would be, I thought about my target audience. Who would watch this? I came up with tech-savvy (or at least internet-savvy) people, probably between teenage to early 30s. Flashback Fridays and Obsoletion would be aimed to please those older viewers who were there to witness the glorious birth of internet memes, viral videos, etc. Shows like Virus would keep up with the latest viral videos, appeasing the younger crowd (or anyone with a short attention span and a YouTube homepage). 

I finally started thinking of what the actual animation would look like, and what I wanted to do for a logo. I decided to go with a pixel-font logo. The assignment required that we create 3 ID bumps, 3 schedules, and 3 lower-thirds graphics. I wanted to keep each one kind of tied together, so the ID bumps were all focused on memes, the lower-thirds graphics were the way that we interact with the internet (typing, clicking, tablet swiping), and the schedules were ways that we connect with other people/the internet tries to connect with us.

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Finally, I gathered footage and stills from around the web, and got to work. I even created a fake Tumblr account for one of the schedule lists.

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I also came across some really hilarious things while I was researching. When I was looking for a buddy icon for the girl character of the AIM schedule, I found this great comment section:

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There was also one for a make-up icon with at least ten comments saying things like “i like dis bcuz i like makeup LOL”

Finally, it all came together into this:

InterNetWork Branding from Maddy Settle on Vimeo.

‘Death Cab’ by Adventure KidNew workout strategy: listen to chiptune music. Feel like video game character. Try to beat my high score!

‘Death Cab’ by Adventure Kid
New workout strategy: listen to chiptune music. Feel like video game character. Try to beat my high score!

So yesterday I went to the studio on fire/westwerk/Hennepin made basement block party!!! It was super awesome and I’m totally in love with westwerk’s workspace. I wanted to take more pictures but my hands were full of food and posters and such…so all you get is me eating a Natedog quality wiener and the awesome work of art I found in the westwerk kitchen.

Happy Pi Day!